What is Canon?


  1. An established principle: the canons of polite society.
  2. A basis for judgment; a standard or criterion.
  3. A group of literary works that are generally accepted as representing a field: “the durable canon of American short fiction” (William Styron).
  4. The works of a writer that have been accepted as authentic: the entire Shakespeare canon.

The term “canon” (not to be confused with a “cannon” that actually shoots things) is on par with how one might interrupt a biblical text in context to its religion when trying to find the answer to something that might be contradicted so many times. In the Christian sense, you have the Bible as being the ultimate word, followed perhaps by the chronicled teachings of various Saints, then somebody like the Pope, then your local priest, and finally the evangelist living next door with an old tattered copy of the Bible and cross trying to make sense of it all. In Star Trek, it follows much the same way, with the episodes and movies being the ultimate word, followed by the chronicles of such people as Rick Sternback and Mike Okuda in the form of a Technical Manual, then some Executive Producer like Rick Berman, then some writer and insider that works on the show, and finally the Trek living next door wearing an Original Series uniform and IDIC necklace trying to make sense of it all.


Canon Sources:

The Ultimate Source:

Television episodes from the five television series (excluding The Animated Series) and the ten feature-length movies.


Reliable Sources:

The Next Generation Technical Manual

Deep Space Nine Technical Manual

The Star Trek Encyclopedia

Star Trek Chronology


It’s rather obvious to see why these sources would be considered the Trek-equivalent of the Bible. Though the episodes and movies will always be the one true canon source, the technical manuals and books listed here are on the immediate next step down because they’ve been written by persons involved with Trek for quite some time, and have had an enormous influence in shaping the franchise.


Semi-Canon Sources:

Backstage Information:

Interviews with the likes of people including Rick Sternbach, Mike Okuda, Herman Zimmerman, John Eaves, etc.

Production designs, sketches, etc.


Supplemental Books:

Star Trek: The Magazine

Star Trek Fact Files

Star Trek Star Charts

The Starship Spotter


Many times the fans are not privileged to some information that will never make it into a book or movie; this information is taken with a grain of salt since sometimes there is a reason why it never made it to the screen. The now-out of print Star Trek: The Magazine and the Star Trek Fact Files are both great sources which get most of their information from canon sources, although sometimes the occasional misprint or misinterpretation may boggle up its reliability. The Star Charts and Starship Spotter are also nice books from people who worked on the shows, though their words are not on par with that of the heavy hitters. It takes about 25 Geoffrey Mandels and 10 Adam "Mojo" Lebowitzs to equal a Rick Sternbach.


Non-Canon Sources:

Star Trek computer and Video Games

Star Trek novels

Books written by third-party authors

Just about anything else listing with Star Trek tact on the name.


This is where the fans get confused. We’ll start from the top… If video games were considered canon resources, we’d all have Hazard Teams with I-Mods who would rely on shoot ‘em up tactics rather then diplomacy to get the job done. Or ships would only be able to launch a few torpedoes at a time and phasers would only fire from a few arrays despite their clearly being others on the aft portions of our ship. Games compromise canon for the sake of playability and making things fun. The popular Bridge Commander could not work because the Sovereign-class would be (and actually is) more overpowered then any other vessel in the game, despite it not making use of all the torpedo launchers and phaser arrays that we know exist – because we’ve seen them used in the movies! Elite Force’s Hazard Team is in itself a direct violation of canon, and even creates up fictional weapons such as the I-Mod which constantly adapts to Borg shield modulations. That would have certainly turned “First Contact” into a short movie. These two examples already come from what are considered the most popular games, though there are dozens more which in some cases make you question why Star Trek is in the game title!


Novels both contradict canon as well as themselves, with sometimes different authors trying to fill in the blanks for our favorite heroes during their adventures. Though some have received critical acclaim for their great drama and realism in regards to Trek, many more make common mistakes that even the casual Trek fan will catch. Gold-pressed latnium (GPL) is actually a hollow “worthless” gold brick with a liquid substance inside that is actually latnium as we’ve seen from DS9 “Who Mourns for Mourn?” One book tries to pass latnium as a non-replicatable metal that is gold in appearance and shares many characteristics with a fictional metal the author created that can be replicated, and a phase shift could make it appear to be latnium. Great idea in an otherwise great story… bad idea because it directly goes against canon. William Shatner’s series of books brings Captain Kirk back to life, and in “The Return” he destroys the Nebula-class U.S.S. Farragut seen at the end of “Generations.” Strange, because the Farragut was actually destroyed later in DS9’s “Nor the Battle to the Strong.” There’s one minor thing in a book that somewhat reinvents the Borg and destroys a good chunk of them. Then in “Avenger” we have a plague that infects a large chunk of the Federation.


Some dedicated fans go so far as to create their own technical manuals and guides, which largely fill in the gaps with information they create on their own. I’m sorry, but the Enterprise-A is a Constitution-class refit… not an Enterprise-class starship. And the Enterprise-C was an Ambassador-class, not an Alaska-class Type-whatever.


Whoa… Canon contradicts canon?

Yup, as if things weren’t hard enough as it is. Take for instance that a line in both “First Contact” and “Nemesis” says that the Sovereign-class Enterprise-E has a Deck 25 and a Deck 29, respectively. Well, in one case it can from a security officer, but the second time it was from a principal actor. Still, it simply can’t be true. Though there were some modifications made to the Sovereign-class for the release of “Nemesis,” this largely consisted of additional torpedo launchers, the nacelles being swept further back and higher, as well as the streamlining of the hull near the main shuttlebay. The Master Situation Display (MSD – The nice cutaway you see on the back of the bridge) was never changed between movies, and it clearly shows the ship has 24 decks. Also, the counting and spacing of windows on the exterior hull also brings about the same result, as does interviews with some of the crew. After much consideration, that is how one comes to know that there are only 24 decks on the ship as opposed to 29. Many other examples exist, right down to the size of the Defiant herself and the fact that her Type-10 shuttlecraft might not really be able to fit through the bay doors.



Between the five members on the ASDB and the numerous sources we gather information from, we often take weeks, if not months to sometimes sift through things as relatively simple as how many torpedo launchers a ship has, or even how long the vessel is. We have a clear set of sources that we derive canon information from, and we use this as the principal cornerstone in defending some of our decisions. Collectively, we own or have access to all the episodes, movies and books considered to be reliable information, and more often then not, we’ve also played all the Star Trek games out there because we too are Star Trek fans.


Still, that doesn’t mean that we aren’t wrong. The purpose of our newsgroup is not only to ask questions, but also question some of the decisions we’ve decided to take in terms of what a starship can or cannot do. We welcome you to please back up your statements with reliable sources, and accept that sometimes decisions may be made that are not to your liking. With a game populace as large as ST:ACTD’s, there will never be a time when all the player’s are satisfied.

Created by Robert Siwiak

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